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Two smuggled Indonesian orangutans fly home from Thailand

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Eating fruit and drinking from plastic bottles, two Sumatran orangutans stared from their cages at Bangkok airport on Thursday before flying home to Indonesia, years after being smuggled into Thailand.

Poachers in Southeast Asia frequently capture the critically endangered orangutans to sell as pets, and police said four-year-olds Ung Aing and Natalee were supposed to be sold to a tourism business.

The orangutans were intercepted by Thai police at the Malaysian border in 2017  after they received ...
The orangutans were intercepted by Thai police at the Malaysian border in 2017, after they received a tip-off about the vehicle they were in
Lillian SUWANRUMPHA, AFP

Wildlife traffickers tried to smuggle the two in via Malaysia in June 2017, but they were intercepted at the border -- along with 39 Hamilton tortoises, 12 Indian turtles and six raccoons -- after police received a tip-off about the vehicle they were in.

The pair have been living in a wildlife rescue centre in Thailand and, once back in Indonesia, will undergo a rehabilitation program before being released back into the wild in Sumatra.

Sumatran orangutans are critically endangered; but poachers frequently capture them to sell as pets ...
Sumatran orangutans are critically endangered; but poachers frequently capture them to sell as pets on the black market
Lillian SUWANRUMPHA, AFP

Ung Aing and Natalee had to take coronavirus tests before their departure, conducted by animal experts from Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University.

Officials fed the duo bananas, coconuts and electrolytes through a small opening in their cages; hiding in hessian sacks, the animals were shy at first but eventually accepted their treats.

Poachers are not the only risk orangutans face; their habitat has drastically shrunk over the past f...
Poachers are not the only risk orangutans face; their habitat has drastically shrunk over the past few decades
Lillian SUWANRUMPHA, AFP

Thai Department of National Parks and Wildlife deputy director general Prakit Vongsrivattanakul said 69 confiscated orangutans have been sent back to Indonesia since 2006, and many have been able to return to the wild.

Even though the two orangutans are now on their way home, their future is still precarious.

Sumatran orangutans are critically endangered and their population is estimated to be fewer than 15,000.

Sumatran orangutans' habitat has drastically shrunk over the past few decades from logging, palm oil plantations and mining.

Plantation workers and villagers sometimes attack the animals for being pests.

bur lpm/reb/kma

Eating fruit and drinking from plastic bottles, two Sumatran orangutans stared from their cages at Bangkok airport on Thursday before flying home to Indonesia, years after being smuggled into Thailand.

Poachers in Southeast Asia frequently capture the critically endangered orangutans to sell as pets, and police said four-year-olds Ung Aing and Natalee were supposed to be sold to a tourism business.

The orangutans were intercepted by Thai police at the Malaysian border in 2017  after they received ...

The orangutans were intercepted by Thai police at the Malaysian border in 2017, after they received a tip-off about the vehicle they were in
Lillian SUWANRUMPHA, AFP

Wildlife traffickers tried to smuggle the two in via Malaysia in June 2017, but they were intercepted at the border — along with 39 Hamilton tortoises, 12 Indian turtles and six raccoons — after police received a tip-off about the vehicle they were in.

The pair have been living in a wildlife rescue centre in Thailand and, once back in Indonesia, will undergo a rehabilitation program before being released back into the wild in Sumatra.

Sumatran orangutans are critically endangered; but poachers frequently capture them to sell as pets ...

Sumatran orangutans are critically endangered; but poachers frequently capture them to sell as pets on the black market
Lillian SUWANRUMPHA, AFP

Ung Aing and Natalee had to take coronavirus tests before their departure, conducted by animal experts from Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University.

Officials fed the duo bananas, coconuts and electrolytes through a small opening in their cages; hiding in hessian sacks, the animals were shy at first but eventually accepted their treats.

Poachers are not the only risk orangutans face; their habitat has drastically shrunk over the past f...

Poachers are not the only risk orangutans face; their habitat has drastically shrunk over the past few decades
Lillian SUWANRUMPHA, AFP

Thai Department of National Parks and Wildlife deputy director general Prakit Vongsrivattanakul said 69 confiscated orangutans have been sent back to Indonesia since 2006, and many have been able to return to the wild.

Even though the two orangutans are now on their way home, their future is still precarious.

Sumatran orangutans are critically endangered and their population is estimated to be fewer than 15,000.

Sumatran orangutans’ habitat has drastically shrunk over the past few decades from logging, palm oil plantations and mining.

Plantation workers and villagers sometimes attack the animals for being pests.

bur lpm/reb/kma

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With 2,400 staff representing 100 different nationalities, AFP covers the world as a leading global news agency. AFP provides fast, comprehensive and verified coverage of the issues affecting our daily lives.

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